Friday, November 17, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Incrementally Better Edition

My runny nose and cough are a notch or two better today... but still not good enough for me to actually go get any real exercise. So no rollerblading today. I'm running out of Fridays before I head back to a regular job and lose the option of the Friday afternoon rollerblade for good. I am hoping I'll be able to get out for a rollerblade on December 1, which will be my last chance. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, how about some links?

Here are the promo ones:

I'm running a GoodReads giveaway for The Burning! Head over there and enter.

The first installment of Inbox Stories will come out on Monday. Sign up for the paid edition (just $5/year!) or the free edition now to get the inaugural newsletter. I've already put it together, and am rather pleased with how it came out.

Now, on to the other links:

Alexandra Petri is her usual scathingly funny self on the hypocrisy of the people calling for Al Franken's ouster but shrugging off any consequences for Roy Moore or Donald Trump.

For what it's worth, I'd like to see the results of an ethics investigation into Franken, and find out if this is a pattern of behavior that continued into his days as a politician. Beyond that, I don't know what should happen. I guess it depends on what we find out. If he is forced to resign, I am OK with that. I just don't know yet if I think that is the only acceptable outcome. And yes, if he were accused of something like Roy Moore is, I'd be damn sure he needed to resign.

I am absolutely NOT on board with the idea that the only politician who should suffer any consequences for this is Franken, who has admitted his bad behavior and apologized, while the likes of Roy Moore and Donald Trump—who have clearly done things worse than what Franken did—brazen it out. That would set up a horrifying situation where the way to ride out past misbehavior coming to light is to lie and torment the people you hurt all over again. We have to find a better answer.

And I am NOT on board with one standard for Democrats, because their voters care, and another standard for Republicans, because apparently a sizable number of their voters think a child molester is preferable to a Democrat. We have to find a way to apply consequences without regard to political party, and I'll be damned if I know how we do that given the "I'd rather vote for a child molester than a Democrat" dynamic.

Lili Loufbourow on the Myth of the Male Bumbler, and how all of these men facing consequences for their past sexual harassment and assaults knew that what they were doing was wrong. You can tell because they tried to hide it.

Jessica Valenti on the fact that 30 year old men don't "date" teenage girls. They abuse them.

Since I shared that Politico article about Trump voters in Johnstown, I want to share this article about progressives in Johnstown, and the fact that there were plenty of Trump voters in nearby wealthy areas.

A big, sincere thank you to whoever did this service:

Podcast recommendation of the week: Ana-Marie Cox at With Friends Like These talks to Rebecca Traister about the misconduct of Bill Clinton and how Hillary responded... and it is really, really great. I was "there" for all of this, but hearing Traister (who is younger than me!) contextualize it really helped me understand it better.

Also, a big, belated EFF YOU to all of my male classmates who responded to the Anita Hill hearings by making crass jokes and making me and the handful of other women in your chemistry classes choose between calling you on that and being labeled a humorless bitch and sort of cringe laughing along. I cringe laughed with you but those stupid crass jokes did damage and I only truly sorted through that a couple of years ago.

And a thank you to the male classmates who didn't make those jokes and helped change the topic. I appreciated it then and I remember who you were even now.

Here are some happier things:

Applying the "I cut, you choose" method produces an algorithm that can fairly divide up a state even with partisan actors doing the dividing.

This article about the "Shalane Flanagan effect" offers a model for women supporting each other to reach great heights.

Moana is going to get a Hawaiian language version! (There is already a Maori version.)

Ed Yong's article on New Zealand and its war on rats  is very good. (If you are ever in Wellington, make sure you go to Zealandia. It is really cool.)

This is a cool:

So is this:


Happy weekend, everyone! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Primal Whimper

I have had a cold since the Wednesday before Halloween. At first it was so mild I wasn't even sure I had a cold, and then it got bad, and now it is getting just enough better each day for me to know that there is no point in going to the doctor, but my sinuses are still way too full and I still cough way too much for my tastes.

Since I've been sick for so long, I am waaaay behind on the things I need to do before I start back up at a "regular" job. I don't even have my list of everything I need to do and that is stressing me out. I used to ask my coaching clients to tell me which thing would make them want to hide under their desk: (1) Having a huge to do list, or (2) Thinking the to do list was incomplete. For me it is definitely option 2.

Perhaps, instead of working on one of the items I didn't finish yesterday (which was a "work on my own stuff" day) I should sit down and write that giant to do list. Bonus: I could do that on the sofa, which is so much comfier than my desk chair.

Meanwhile, all the sexual harassment and assault news is getting a tad overwhelming. I said on Twitter a few days ago that I am actually glad by own "lockbox full of crappy things that have happened and I've stuffed away and ignored" blew open a few years ago, because that forced me to reckon with it all and how it changed my life and I'm in a pretty good place right now. I really feel for the women whose lockboxes are blowing open now. It is a rough ride in the best of times, and these are far from the best of times.

That's what is up with me right now. What's up with you?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Weekend Reading: An Announcement before the Links Edition

So, I still have a cold. This is the weirdest cold I've had in awhile: the symptoms keep changing, and I never feel really sick, so I keep muddling along, thinking that I'm almost better, and then not really getting better. Maybe this weekend will finish it.

I'll have some links for you in a bit, but first I want to share a link with some big personal news: in this month's Founding Chaos newsletter, I write about my decision to go back to being a full time employee of a company I do not own. (In other words, I got a "regular" job.)

I won't rehash everything I wrote there, but I'll expand on some of the more personal/parenting related bits.

My decision to do this was driven by feeling squashed between two different forces: on one side, an honest assessment of how hard it would be for me to do what I needed to do to make the kind of money I wanted to make in the business it looked like I could build, and on the other side, the uncertainty about healthcare, taxes, and pretty much everything else caused by our dysfunctional political climate right now. I can't say for sure, but I think that if either of those forces had not been there, I probably could have found a way to make it all work out without going back to the corporate world.

But I don't live in the world of "what if." I live in this world, and in this world, I cannot pretend that I, at the age of 45, could easily overcome the issues keeping me being comfortable with the self-promotion I would have needed to do to build a business whose main income came from coaching and seminars. I knew the path I'd have to take to do that, and I knew I would have struggled with it. And I wasn't convinced I would be happy with the career I'd have at the end of all that struggle. Like I said in the newsletter, there was some serious soul-searching involved in this, and honestly, I am glad I'd done the work I talked about in my mid-life crisis post. I at least knew what mattered to me, and could discard the idea that I should just scale back my lifestyle and live on a lot less money. I could do that, but I don't want to if I can avoid it.

I also cannot pretend that our politics are going to get less screwed up anytime soon. In retrospect, I was probably overoptimistic about relying on the ACA as a back up plan even before the 2016 election. Now I think that no matter what happens in the next few elections, I can't count on any government program in my personal planning. Things are just too volatile. I had hoped that the ACA would be the beginning of the end of our ridiculous tethering of health insurance to our jobs. Maybe it still will be, but I don't think the tether will be broken in my working lifetime. I now just hope my kids will be able to make career decisions without factoring in how they'll get their health insurance.

I guess there is a third force that was squashing me, too: my responsibility to my family. I was meeting my income goals, but Mr. Snarky and I had come to realize those goals were too low. So, I was going to raise my goals, and I thought I had a plan for how to do that, but it wasn't a certain thing. We started discussing which of the kids' activities we would drop, and how to scale back our travel spending, and things like that. And I hated it. Rationally, I know my kids would be just fine with fewer activities, but I hated the thought of telling them they couldn't take a class they loved so that I could keep chasing a career goal I wasn't certain I really wanted. And as for the travel... well, remember that one of the things I learned in the mid-life crisis was that travel really matters to me. So I wasn't really thrilled about scaling that back, either, particularly when you consider that Mr. Snarky's half of the family lives in New Zealand, and travel to visit them will never be cheap.

And then this job opportunity came up... and honestly, I am pretty excited about what I'll be doing. So it just seemed like the right answer, particularly when I pulled up my time tracking data and calculated how much time I really spent on publishing, which is the part of my business I was adamant about keeping. So, to any of my authors (or potential authors) reading this: don't worry! I don't think much will change in how I run Annorlunda Books. If anything, I'll feel more free to take some risks and invest money in things that might not pay off, because that money will no longer be coming from the same pot of money as I use to pay my bills.

I have the rest of this month to tie up loose ends in the business, and I'll probably continue to be scarce here while I do that, because this %$#@! cold has put me behind schedule on that. But I intend to keep writing here, and although weekend reading posts may go up later, I think they'll continue.

So, on to those links, eh?

Self-promo links: don't forget that The Burning is now out!

Here's a review from Fill Your Bookshelf and another one from Buried Under Books.

Let's start with something disturbing that isn't politics. If you haven't read James Bridle's post about the weird long tail of kids videos on YouTube, you really should read it. It is long, but worth the time.

And then read Will Oremus' discussion of the topic.  This bit in particular:

"Whenever you find an algorithm making high-stakes decisions with minimal human supervision—that is, decisions that determine whose content is widely viewed, and therefore who makes money—you will find cottage industries of entrepreneurs devising ever subtler ways to game it."

I see this clearly on Amazon, when I'm looking for short ebooks to read. I want to support indie authors and small publishers (obviously!) but it is increasingly hard to find their good stuff among all the algorithm-gaming dreck out there. I think a lot about this problem with respect to finding readers for the books I publish (again, obviously). My decision to start Inbox Stories is one of the things I'm trying to get around the algorithm gaming issue. If I have an audience outside of Amazon, then the Amazon algorithm gamers are less of a problem for me.

The problems with tech platforms are bad here, but I think they may be worse in Southeast Asia.

I have been thinking about the problems created by the tech platforms as akin to the pollution created by the industrial age. In the initial rush to reap the benefits of new technology, we didn't immediately notice the harm being caused. Once we did, we started to figure out how to balance the benefits and the harm as a society (although this administration is trying to undo some of that progress by undermining the EPA). I think we'll eventually get there with the tech platforms, too, but that in the meantime we're going to have toxic pollution in our information spaces.

Lindy West on women's anger is really good.

Alabama political report Josh Moon on the lack of a bottom in GOP politics is also really good.

Rachel Lauden on why cooking isn't easy captures some of my thoughts on the subject, although I at least am operating from a place of knowing the basics. (Thank you, Mom!)

Elizabeth Catte on Appalachia and the problem with J.D. Vance is worth your time. This is a book excerpt, and I think I'd like to read that book.

Podcasts I found really interesting this week:

More Perfect on Citizens United made me understand why the case was decided the way it was. I still find the outcomes of that case really unfortunate, but I now understand the decision better. In general, More Perfect has been good for helping me understand the viewpoint of the Conservatives on the court.

Pod Save the World's episode on Middle East peace was a surprisingly hopeful interview with George Mitchell and Alon Sachar, and included a good discussion of what America can and cannot do to further the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Something fun: Google sheep view!

I think this is the anthem of 2017 (it started as an a capella song captured at the Women's March)




And now I need to go make pizza. Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Release Day for The Burning

I am sorry to have been so absent here lately. I caught a cold and it won't go away. Or maybe I caught a cold and before I really got better I caught another cold? Either way, I am so tired of it. I've been going to bed early and trying to take it easy and I feel I should be rewarded for this by having the damn cold go away already, but lo, I still have it.

Anyway, today is the release day for another book from my publishing company, Annorlunda Books! The Burning, by J.P. Seewald, is a novella about family and resilience set in the coal country of Pennsylvania. It was inspired by the events in Centralia, PA, and dramatizes how one man reacts to a slow-moving catastrophe like this threatening everything he's worked for.

You can get the ebook for $2.99 from the usual places:

And the paperback for $8.99:
It is also on Overdrive if your library uses that.

That's about all I can muster for this release day post, because I desperately want to take a nap and try to shake this cold. But go grab a copy of The Burning! It is a fast read, and it left me thinking about how I'd respond to a situation in which my livelihood and my home were both threatened. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Never-Ending Cold Edition

Last week, I was congratulating myself for taking it easy so that I only had a mild version of the cold my husband gave me. Turns out, I just had the preview... the cold hit me harder this week. I still don't feel terrible, but the cold got in my lungs, which has meant a lot of coughing, particularly between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. for some reason. So much fun.

So, no rollerblading for me today. Today was the first day all week I didn't have to get up and get ready to be somewhere before 9, so I gave myself a lazy start to the day, and took a 45 minute nap after I got the kids off to school and another 30 minute rest period in the early afternoon. I don't regret the rest time at all, but my to do list is looking pretty sad right now. Oh well, maybe I can make it up in our "extra" hour this weekend.

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promotion links:

Both Sides of My Skin, a collection of short stories about pregnancy and motherhood, by Elizabeth Trach, is now available for pre-order. These are some of the most real feeling stories about the early days of motherhood that I have ever read, and I am thrilled with how the book has turned out. I can't wait to get it out in the world! Release day is December 6. Pre-order links are all available on the book's webpage.

The Burning, J.P. Seewald's novella about family and resilience in the Pennsylvania coal country, is also still available for pre-order. It comes out next Wednesday!

In other Annorlunda Books news, I have just finished setting up a new newsletter that I'm also really excited about. Inbox Stories will bring a short story to your inbox every month. The newsletter will also have a recommendation of another short story from me, and a recommendation from someone else in the "Inbox Stories community"- I'll start that out with recommendations from authors I've published, but I've also set up a form so readers can recommend stories, too. 

There will be two editions of the newsletter: the free edition will have the recommendations and any other related content (knowing me, I'll probably include a quote most months... I do love quotes from stories). It will also include the first part of the story. The paid edition will have everything that is in the free edition plus links to the full story as a webpage and an ebook (mobi and epub). The paid edition is just $5/year, so I think that is a pretty good deal. The stories will be a mix of public domain stories and short writing Annorlunda Books has published. If the newsletter does well, I may start acquiring short stories specifically for it, too.

The newsletter will go out on or near the 3rd Monday of the month, and I plan to start this month, with a newsletter on Nov. 20. I hope some of you will sign up, either for the paid newsletter or the free edition. If you do sign up, let me know if you run into any issues in the sign up process. Setting up a newsletter with a paid edition required me to add a bunch of new things to my site and I could only test so much. If you find a problem, email me at wandsci at gmail dot com or the info at annorlundaenterprises dot com email address associated with the newsletter.

You might be wondering how this connects with Tungsten Hippo. Well... I'll be stopping regular posts there over the next month or so. The short writing world has changed since I started it, and I'm finding that the constraints I set on what I'd post there are limiting what I read. I haven't decided when, exactly, to stop posting there. I'll post about it over there when I do. The site will stay up, though, and I may post to it from time to time.

OK, that's a lot of self-promotion! And now let's get on to the links you are probably here to read:

First something fun: I have really been enjoying the Make America Read newsletter. (Full disclosure: Annorlunda Books partnered with it last month to give away copies of one of my taster flights.)

Rebecca Traister took the twitter thread I mentioned last week about how so much of our national narrative is shaped by predatory men, and wrote a very good article. You should read it.

David Roberts wrote a very good piece about the problem with how right-wing media has divorced some people from facts. He frames it as "What if Mueller proves his case and it doesn't matter?" but I think the same problem shows up in a lot of areas, like climate change.

Do you remember the Iowa teenager who supposedly wrecked his state's insurance market? Jonathan Cohn tracked him and his family down and the story is more complex than the soundbite. (Also, how awful is it that the insurance rep gave enough information about the case that the family was able to recognize themselves?)

Speaking of healthcare... this Dylan Scott projection of what the ACA will be in 2020 seems pretty realistic to me. We are stuck in a horrible place where the Republicans do not want to make the changes necessary to make the ACA a stable and good system, but neither do they have a new system of their own to put in place. I feel like we're going backwards on this issue, and that makes me sad. 

Now we're on to taxes, and if I find a good explainer of the Republican plan, I'll include it next week. So far, the best thing I've found is in an email from an accounting firm that somehow got me on their mailing list, and it doesn't have a web version I can link to. Here's the Vox explainer, but it is still a lot to read through and understand. I am pretty sure my taxes will be going up, since I'm in a high tax state and the state income tax deduction will go away. I also think we may get bumped to a higher bracket in the new system with fewer brackets. However, I could be wrong, since we have occasionally needed to file with the alternative minimum tax in past years, and that is going away. I wouldn't actually mind paying more taxes to help out people who are doing less well than we are, but it is a little annoying to pay more taxes so that people can inherit multi-million dollar estates tax free. This one feels like a less serious threat to my family's well-being than the healthcare changes, though, so I don't find myself obsessing about figuring out the details.   

Here's more about the cub scout kicked out of his troop after asking a state representative some pointed questions about gun control. As someone who was really interested in and informed on political issues at his age, I am sad to see people implying these weren't his own questions. (Spoiler: he has landed in a new troop and is happy there and they are happy to have him.)

This story about coal miners deciding not to retrain to other fields because they think Trump is going to bring more coal jobs back makes me sad. I can understand the decision- if you really believe Trump is going to do what he says, then it makes sense to hold out for a local coal job than to retrain for a job that might require you to move or would pay less. But, I don't think Trump can do what he says, and even if he could, I don't think he would because he doesn't really know how to get anything done. So I think these people are going to get screwed.

In podcasts... I found this week's Ezra Klein Show really interesting. Ezra Klein talks to political scientist James Wallner about his argument that politics needs more conflict, not less. Wallner has also worked as a congressional aid to some very conservative senators (e.g., Jeff Sessions), so his observations about what is broken in the Republican caucus in the Senate right now are really interesting. Here's a direct link to the podcast episode on a different site.  (Podcasters! Make it easier to link to your current episode on your main site, please- the two latest episodes aren't even up on the Vox site!)

I haven't had a chance to read the article embedded in this tweet yet, but remember how I mentioned that someone had compared our era to the era right after the printing press was invented?


Halloween bunny!

And now, I'm off to try to cross one more thing off my to do list before it is time to go get my kids. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Weird, Weird Week Edition

This week has had entirely too much plot. I can't tell you about all of it yet, but if you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw the costume in the mail saga (read the full thread for the entire sage, but the costume is here and looks adorable on Pumpkin!)

Then there was the "oh crap, the school scheduled the information session for middle school (which Pumpkin starts next year!) on the same night as my book club... which I was hosting. (Mr. Snarky went and asked almost none of the questions I wish he had asked. But I think I've found the information I want by asking other parents and reading school websites.)

Next came the Hamilton tickets drama. Both my sister and I won the lottery for "verified fan" codes, but then neither of my sister or Mr. Snarky (using my code: I had a meeting at that time) managed to get tickets. Then Mr. Snarky talked me into trying during the general sale and we struck out again... until I randomly tried again 45 minutes after the on sale time and saw tickets! But with potential obstruction. I called Mr. Snarky who somehow managed to snag three tickets that were better than what I had found. And then I spent a lot of time checking back periodically and managed to get 1 more ticket for the same night, not with us, but not terribly far away. That is probably 3 or 4 less than I could easily find homes for just withing my book club, but I decided that I'd had enough and stopped trying. However, I'm going to see Hamilton, so I won't complain!

I also had to take Popsicles in to Petunia's class today, because they do their birthday celebrations on the last Friday of the month. After that, I walked my kids and one friend each home, because the mom coaching Pumpkin's lego league team asked if her daughter and Pumpkin could do some work on their project after school. The little sister of Pumpkin's friend is good friends with Petunia, so she came home, too.

(Did I ever tell you guys that I'm coaching Petunia's junior lego league team? I am. That is an adventure, too. I'll write more about it some other time.)

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promo links: my income from my main contract is going to be a little lower than usual this month, so I decided to try to make up the difference by running a sale on my recorded seminars. Use the promo code octsale to get 20% off any of my seminars, including the 3 hour project management course, which I have finally decided to make available for purchase.

Brit Marling on the economics of consent is really, really good.

Ezra Klein on why it matters that two prominent journalists have now also been accused of harassment is good. Rebecca Traister made a similar argument on Twitter. I encourage us all to stop and think about what it means that so much of the media that shapes how we view the world is made by men who view women as playthings and by white people who harbor biases about people of color. The lack of diversity in our media environment translates into an incomplete and flawed understanding of the world.

This Avivah Wittenberg-Cox article about ambitious women and their partners is worth your time. This is such a fraught thing to negotiate as a couple. I am pretty happy with how Mr. Snarky and I are handling it, but we are neither of us flying as high as the people in the article. I should write more about my evolving thoughts on the trade offs and challenges and opportunities, and also about how I think the real problem is that so many jobs are structured such that people can only achieve their highest potential if they have support taking care of the rest of their life... but today is not the day for that. I'll add it to my "blog posts I should write now that I've finally finished writing about my summer vacation" list!

I am watching in fascination as the Republicans try and apparently succeed in making a scandal of the fact that someone close to the Clinton campaign took over paying for the Steele dossier after Republicans - who initiated this work!- decided to stop paying for it once Trump clinched the nomination. I think Josh Marshall's take on this is correct.

This interview with Charlie Sykes is really interesting. He is clearly grappling with the extent to which "mainstream" Republicanism has enabled the ugly nativism we're seeing now. I think most liberals would say he has not quite gone far enough, but I am genuinely glad to see him and Senators like Flake and Sasse starting to grapple with it.

Speaking of Senator Flake... I wish he'd stayed and fought as a Senator, but I will judge him by what he does next. If he says he needs to not be running for re-election to handle the Trump era with integrity, then I will believe him... if he actually does something to protect our country and democratic ideals from the dangers Trump poses. Corker, Flake, Sasse... they all need to stop just talking and start doing. I don't expect them to vote in ways I agree with on policy decisions, but if they say they see the danger of Trump, they are in a position to do something about it. So they should do something.

And speaking of conservatives who I think get part of the way to reckoning with an error: Meg McArdle on what libertarians got wrong about school vouchers. The bit I wish she'd addressed but does not is what the discovery that parents are choosing schools based on the other kids in the school more than "neutral" measures of quality means for our attempts to build a more fair and less racially stratified society. Also, any halfway honest white upper middle class parent who pays attention when talking to peers about school choice could probably have predicted the result of that study. But that is also something I don't have time to really get into right now.

In CA political news, Gavin Newsom seems to be running for Governor on a "build more housing" platform, which I find encouraging. We need more housing.

This is really powerful art:

If you are at all into early English history, click through and read this thread it is hilarious.

(Full disclosure: My history knowledge is not that strong. I could only follow this because I've been listening to the History of the English Language podcast.) 

Bunnies dressed in cute little outfits!

Bunny eating a long leafy veggie!

I think I am missing some things I meant to share... but I have to go get the kids ready for a Halloween party, so I'll have to leave them for another time. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Trip Story: Mammoth, Manzanar... and Home

I am determined to finish writing up our summer road trip before Halloween... and Halloween is right around the corner. So, tonight I have managed to finish the most pressing items on my to do list and will finish off the story.

At the end of my last installment, we were enjoying a final relaxing dinner on the lawn at the Epic Cafe in Lee Vining, having enjoyed Yosemite. We got up the next morning with plans to visit the Devil's Postpile National Monument (another Junior Ranger badge was in the offing!) but we were thwarted by the unusually heavy snowfall of the prior winter. The road to the National Monument was still impassable for the bus that usually takes visitors to there, and the only other way to reach it would be a hike that sound far too long and too strenuous for us.

We were in Mammoth, because that was where the bus would have picked us up. So we decided to go on up the mountain. The remarkable thing about this was the fact that people were skiing and snowboarding in bikinis and board shorts. It was a beautiful, warm day... but the snow was still on the mountain, so people were still skiing and boarding down it.

The view from the top was pretty, but it was really windy, so we didn't linger long.

After coming down, we gave in to the pleas of our children and let them go on the bungee trampoline thing. Then we had lunch, and headed south.

Our next stop was Manzanar National Historic Site. This was one of the internment centers set up by the US government for Japanese-Americans during World War II. It is not a proud moment in our history, and it felt even more disturbing to be visiting it at a time when some foolish people were referencing that time as a justification for banning Muslim immigrants. However, the site itself is very well done. There is a museum in the visitor's center that does an excellent job explaining what happened (but not justifying it) for both adults and children. They have activities aimed at children Petunia's age, such as asking them to think about what they would pack if they could only bring 10 things with them. However, I don't think the meaning of the site really sunk in for Petunia. Pumpkin, though, read and understood a lot. I think the visit made a strong impression on her.

As for me, I cried during the film and I cried looking at this wall:

The writing is the names of all the people interned at the various camps.

I cried reading a lot of the exhibits, actually. It was a horrible thing we did, and the exhibits show that and the effect of it on people's lives starkly.

We were visiting at the end of their day, so we didn't get to spend much time in the barracks that are still standing. However, we did drive the perimeter, stopping to see the remains of the Japanese garden the camp residents had created.

They named it Pleasure Park.

And to see the cemetery and memorial.

Most families chose to move the people who were buried here once the war was over, but there are still a few graves.

After leaving Manzanar, we drove on to Ridgecrest, where we spent the night. Ridgecrest is not really a tourist destination, but it was a convenient stopping point. And we saw a gorgeous sunset.

Taken from our motel parking lot.

The next day, we drove home. We stopped for lunch in Riverside. First we walked around downtown a bit (and admired the famous Mission Inn), and then we drove to a brewpub called Wick's for lunch. Lunch was very good... which was a good way to end the trip.

As always after a vacation, we were glad to be back in our own beds (particularly since the beds in our last motel were pretty uncomfortable), but a little sad to have our adventures over. But we're already talking about future explorations!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Weather Edition

I did not go for my rollerblade today. I was scared off by some intermittent sprinkles around the time I would usually go. I went for a short run in my neighborhood instead. Of course, when I got back from that, the sun came out. I would have been about halfway through my rollerblade if I'd gone, and it would probably have been a beautiful outing. Oh well. (What I should have done: opened up my Flowx app and checked on cloud cover and precipitation. I forget to do that because usually I don't need such info in San Diego....)

In self-promo links today... I'm trying to make my Annorlunda social media presence a little more interactive. So today, I asked a question:

I asked the same question on Facebook. Come answer if you are so inclined (and on either of those platforms).

In friend-promo links: Academaze author Sydney Phlox is writing short fiction now! She's writing under the pseudonym Maura Yzmore and she's on Twitter and has an author page. Check out her stories!

On to the usual doom and gloom links:

There's been a lot written about the Weinstein revelations. All of it is worth your time, but I can't bring myself to link to everything. Instead, I'll link to the response that best captures how I feel: Men of the world: You are not the weather, by the excellent Alexandra Petri.

This article about Kagan and Gorsuch is really extraordinary.

This article about Trump voters who were in Harvey's path being unsure if the people in Puerto Rico should get the same federal help they and their neighbors got made me so mad. And it also made me sad, because it is another example of why there's a good chance Trump will get re-elected.

A friend introduced me to the More Perfect podcast awhile back and it is really great. I may or may not have linked to the episode about the political thicket argument before, which would be the one episode I'd have you listen to if you're only going to pick one. I recently listened to both of the American Pendulum episodes, and those are worth your time, too.

This is amazing:

This rabbit looks like he's telling that dog to shut up already:

That's all I have this week! Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Theory of Midlife Crises

I've been thinking about midlife crises lately, partly because of that article I've linked to three times now, and partly because a lot of my friends seem to be roughly where I was in 2014. I guess I was precocious?

Anyway, I've been thinking about why mid-life crises happen. They don't all turn out the same: I quit my job, I've watched some friends get divorced and others go through a period of misery and then decide to keep everything just as it was.

As different as their outcomes are, I think many, maybe even most, midlife crises start from looking around at your life and really seeing the results of your earlier choices. I thought I was paying attention, but once I hit that crisis point, I realized I hadn't really seen how things turned out in some cases. I was still telling myself I was it was too soon to know the outcome, when in many cases the verdict was in.

Some of the results were great, others less so. And it is the less great results that stand out. Combine that with the realization that some of the decisions you made were really final, and that time is running out on changing the results of some of the others... and of course there's going to be some angst.

For me, it was the first time I felt like I could see the entire arc of my life, not just where I'd been but also where I was likely to go if I kept going on the same path. Always before, I'd had the sense of almost infinite possibility: sure I was unlikely to sell all my possessions, move to a small village in Italy, and learn how to make pasta properly, but when I was younger, that sort of thing felt not just possible, but relatively easy to do, if I'd wanted to. Now, I saw a thicket of obstacles in the way of so many paths. I began to realize more clearly what my life would not be.

The terrible part of this is that at first, I didn't see what my life still could be. The real obstacles were mixed in with mirage obstacles to the point that I felt almost trapped. The work of the mid-life crisis is learning to understand which obstacles are real and which are mirages, and which can be overcome and which must simply be accommodated. You must also work out which paths are worth some extra effort to make your way past the mirages and over the real obstacles and which paths just aren't for you.

I tell my friends who are in the midst of the angst that yeah, it really, really sucks. But if you can work your way through the angst with some purpose without cracking under the pressure of it, then you'll probably come through to having a lot more clarity about yourself and your life and what really matters to you.

I recently wrote about some of what I learned in working through my angst. There is more for me to learn, and probably always will be. Life is journey, blah blah blah. But I have noticed that I approach big life choices with much more clarity now. This is a good thing, because the turmoil of this time period in American history is presenting me with a surprising number of big life choices. The parameters of the happy life I'd built myself since quitting my job have been changed on me, and I have to decide how to respond.

You've probably seen this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring making its rounds since the election:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

As crappy as the mid-life crisis experience was, I am grateful to have been through it before everything went to Hell, because the clarity about what matters to me, what will make me happy, and what can only lead to me being unhappy no matter how much I wish it was otherwise has been very helpful these past few months.

In short, the gift of the mid-life crisis is knowing yourself. The article I linked to above talks about the U-shaped curve for happiness: people are happy when they are young and when they are old, but not so much when they're in the middle. There are a lot of theories about why, with the fact that the middle is when you have a bunch of responsibilities being a big one. I don't dispute that at all. But I also think that part of the reason we get happy again as we get older is that we know ourselves better, and so we make better choices.

Here's to making the best choices we can with the time that is given us. That's really all we can hope to do.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trip Story: Yosemite and Lee Vining

Most people visit Yosemite from the West, but on our summer road trip this year, we decided to come in from the East. 

The advantage of this is that you get to stay in the utterly chilled out little town of Lee Vining, and see Mono Lake and its tufas as well as Yosemite. The disadvantage is that it takes a couple of hours to drive to Yosemite Valley from Lee Vining. The drive is gorgeous, through Tuolomne Meadows and past many lakes, waterfalls, and viewpoints.

One of the prettier lakes.
When we visited, in early July, there was also an extra bonus: snow! The kids had a blast playing in the snow.

However, that two hour drive to the valley meant that we arrived with the crowd instead of ahead of it. And OMG, the valley was crowded. Unlike at the Grand Canyon, which has managed to ban cars from the most popular part of the park during peak season, cars are allowed in at Yosemite. We parked our car and planned to take the bus around to see the sites, just as we had at the Grand Canyon. However, as we learned after lunch, if there is a traffic jam of cars, the bus isn't going any faster. (There was some road construction that closed the bus only lane: perhaps if that had been open, we would have had a better experience.)

But at the start of the day, we didn't know about the traffic jam that would mar our afternoon. We walked along a meadow to get to the visitor's center and get our Jr. Ranger books. It was a nice walk.

After collecting our Jr. Ranger books, we decided to head back to see the Yosemite Falls. We took the bus back to the trailhead for the Lower Yosemite Falls and walked up to see them, along with a bunch of other folks.

My kids admire the falls. You could feel the spray from this spot.

By the time we got back down from the falls viewpoint, it was basically lunch time, so we headed back to the dining options near the visitor's center and had lunch.  On our way, we saw a deer.

We had seen a couple of deer earlier, in more natural settings, too, and we'd see even more the next day. But still, this was quite a sight.

After lunch, things started going poorly. We tried to take the bus over to the trailhead for Mirror Lake, but traffic wasn't moving, and in the end, we had a walk (with none-too-happy children) over to Half Dome Village, where we ate dinner. After dinner, the traffic had cleared, and we were able to catch a bus back to our car and then drive out of the valley. 

We got back to our cabin late, a little disappointed with how the day had gone.

The next morning, we headed out to Bodie State Park. Bodie is a genuine ghost town. I think Mr. Snarky was the most impressed with this stop, but we all enjoyed it. The buildings are in a state of "arrested decay." 

You can only go inside a few, but you can peer into the windows of most.

Petunia was quite taken with the store display. When we got home from vacation, she rounded up some small bottles, filled them with salt and sugar and the like and made her own shop display. She still hasn't let me reclaim the bottles.

We were very glad we'd gone to Bodie in the morning, because by the time we left, it was quite hot. We finished up before lunch, and headed back to Lee Vining.

After lunch, we changed the kids into slightly warmer clothes, and headed back to Yosemite, planning to explore Tuolumne Meadows. I am so glad we did, because this second visit to the park rescued my opinion of the visit. The meadows were far, far less crowded than the valley had been. With the help of a ranger, we chose the Soda Springs hike as out best option. It was a beautiful hike.

We saw several deer.

And saw the soda springs. (That's carbonated water bubbling out of the ground!)

And then we headed back to the car. 

Petunia is carrying her new stuffed bear, bought the day before. Its name is Strawberry.
Pumpkin and Mr. Snarky got ahead of Petunia and me, and missed out on one of the great treats of the trip: a group of 5 bucks running past us, so close that I was actually a little concerned for our safety. They were big animals! Of course, Mr. Snarky had the camera, so I couldn't document the moment.

On our way out of the park, we stopped to play in the snow, of course. 

We had to drag the kids away. 

As we left Yosemite, I wished we could have seen the "big" sites in the valley at a less crowded time. Perhaps we'll come back in spring or fall some year. But I was glad to have gotten to visit Tuolumne Meadows, and that is not as accessible in the shoulder seasons, when there is more snow on the ground and the temperatures are lower. So I scored it a good stop.

We returned to the Epic Cafe for dinner. Mr. Snarky and I split a bottle of wine, and the kids did cartwheels once the crowd cleared out.

Not our feet. This was the view from our dinner table.
We went to bed quite happy with our stay in Lee Vining. We'd leave the next day, heading home. We had a couple more interesting stops (such as Manzanar)... but I'll pick up that story next time.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Coming Out of the Whirlwind Edition

Well here we are at Friday again. I almost feel caught up after the whirlwind that was the end of September and beginning of October for me... but everytime I think "that's it, I'm caught up," something else comes along and I'm behind again. Still, I'm feeling a little less flattened than I was last Friday, and I have a more restful weekend ahead, too.

Part of the reason I've been feeling behind is that I've got a lot going on in the publishing side of things right now. Next year, I'll have to be careful to space my releases more evenly! Here's the latest:

The Burning, the novella by J.P. Seewald about family and resilience, set in the coal country of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, is available for pre-order. I'm trying out having a paperback pre-order via my secondary print on demand vendor, so this time you can pre-order ebooks or paperbacks. All the links are on the book's webpage.

I'm now looking for advance readers for Both Sides of My Skin, a collection of four short stories about pregnancy and motherhood, by Elizabeth Trach. These stories rang really true to me: they are about the reality of early motherhood, not the greeting card version of it. If you're interested in being an advance reader, sign up on the form.

I'm also working on the formatting of a novella that will be the first Annorlunda Books release of 2018, put the sequel to Okay, So Look under contract (Here's the Deal, a humorous retelling of Exodus), and read and loved a novelette that I'll get under contract soon. I have several more submissions to read and consider for what will probably be my last fiction slot in 2018. I'm still hoping to find a non-fiction book for next year, too.

Oh, and I've started work on the shiny new idea I think I've mentioned here a couple of times. I talked a little bit more about that in this month's Founding Chaos newsletter, which went out today.

Phew! So, in other news....

Here's a good explanation of the effects of Trump's decision to stop paying the ACA CSRs. I have decided that I'm going to need to accept that I can no longer count on the ability to buy decent insurance through the ACA exchange, so I need to make my contingency plans accordingly. We're still all covered by Mr. Snarky's insurance, so this is just contingency planning, but I take contingency planning seriously. It is what allows me to face uncertainty calmly. The Trump presidency has blown a lot of my contingency plans all to hell, and I think some of the exhaustion I've been feeling is due to that. I'm constantly recalculating and readjusting.

Anyhow, in other depressing news: here's a summary of a meeting of political scientists that is a bit gloomy about the prospects of American democracy.

Yoni Applebaum writing about whether or not the American idea is over is equally depressing.

There are more and more op-ed pieces calling for Republicans in Congress to stop voicing concerns about Trump (on and off the record) and start actually taking their Constitutional duty to protect the country from an unfit President more seriously. Here is the latest I've read: Republicans, it's time to panic.

I don't often find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with William Saletan, but I agree with his analysis of the disconnect between the NRA and average gun owners on high capacity magazines and the like.

Dan Pfeiffer argues Democrats need to think bigger on gun laws, and I find him persuasive.

I've been thinking I need to take our disaster preparations up another level, and this piece looks useful for thinking about how to do that.

I liked this post by One Tired Ema, which was inspired by that piece about midlife crises in Gen X women that I linked to earlier this week. I've got another post about my own recent midlife crisis brewing. Maybe I'll get a chance to write it next week.

I loved this line in the linked post, too:

I thought this was a great thread, too:


I've been following Roxane Gay on Twitter for a long time, so this tweet pretty much made my day:

She gets so much grief online, it is great to see her get something awesome (her love for Channing Tatum was a long running twitter thing).

And it also made this earlier tweet  of hers much more poignant:


And now I have to stop sharing all my favorite tweets of the week because it is time for dinner.

I'll close with a bunny in Greenland and you definitely need to click through and see it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trip Story: Lake Tahoe to Mono Lake

I am determined to finished writing up our summer road trip! In the last installment, we were in Carson City, Nevada. The most direct route to our next stop, Lee Vining, California, would have involved heading south from Carson City, but it seemed ridiculous to be so close to Lake Tahoe and not see it, so we drove west, instead.

Lake Tahoe is as beautiful as I'd heard. I think my biggest mistake of the trip was not putting the kids in their swimsuits that morning and letting them have a swim in the lake. I certainly heard about that bad decision for quite awhile! But even without taking a swim, we enjoyed our visit. We first went a little bit north, and visited Sand Harbor, which is in Nevada.

A cove near Sand Harbor
Here, the water was crystal clear and we really got a sense for why Tahoe is so famous. There is a Shakespeare festival here, and it would be a beautiful venue.

After dipping our toes in the water, whining that we weren't swimming and/or stand up paddleboarding, and walking about a bit to enjoy the view, we drove south to South Lake Tahoe, which is just over the border in California, stopping along the way to take a picture of a classic Lake Tahoe vista: pine trees, blue water, and snow on the mountains.

The water was less clear in South Lake Tahoe, and the crowds more obtrusive. We picked up some Subway sandwiches for lunch and ate lunch at a park. There were steps where the kids enjoyed letting the waves come and splash them, and all in all, it was a good stop.

Waiting for a wave
We resolved to come back and see Tahoe properly sometime, and headed south. There was some absolutely beautiful scenery between South Lake Tahoe and Loope, but we failed to capture any of it on the camera. If you ever get the chance to make this drive, though, take it. The mountains are spectacular, and I still think that in retrospect, knowing what I later saw in Yosemite.

As we drove own from Loope, we passed the preparations for the famous Tour of the California Alps, aka the Death Ride. It would be a beautiful ride, but I was tired after driving the road. I can't imagine cycling it!

By the time we got out of the mountains, it was almost time for a snack/rest break. I'd found Walker Burger by searching on Google Maps. The reviews said it was a great roadside stop, so we decided to try it out. It was a wonderful stop. It had a beautiful shady yard and patio, and the same relaxed vibe we later appreciated so much in Lee Vining.


After our rest, we drove on, and began to appreciate why people love the Eastern Sierras so much. It really is beautiful country, with lush green valleys and snowcapped mountains in the distance.

View from the car window

Eventually, Mono Lake came into view. Mono Lake is an alkaline lake, famous for its tufas, which are limestone protrusions. Sunset is late in early July, so we managed to go see some tufas, made even more spectacular by the late afternoon sun.

After our visit to the tufas, we returned to our hotel and had dinner at the onsite restaurant, the Epic Cafe. It really was epic... we all loved our food, and we ate on a grassy lawn, and the grown ups got to linger over our drinks while the kids did cartwheels in the distance.

We turned in early, hoping to get an early start for the next day, which was to take us to Yosemite Valley. I'll pick up the story there next time.

Monday, October 09, 2017

A Bit of a Brain Dump

Warning: this is a rather pointless post.

I wanted to write a "real" post tonight. I thought I might pick up my trip story posts from our summer vacation. I'd like to finish those before Halloween!

Or I thought I might write something about the Gen X women's midlife crisis piece that everyone was talking about on my Twitter feed today. But appropriately enough, a combination of trying to catch up on work (and home!) tasks and a return of my terrible headaches has rendered a real post unlikely.

My headaches came back because I finished off a bottle of the "women over 50" multivitamins I've been taking (even though I am "only" 45!) because someone told me that maybe the magnesium in them would help with the headaches. I haven't had many bad headaches recently so I thought "no rush getting more!" Ha. I've had a terrible headache for the last four days. I stopped at the drugstore on my way home today and bought more multivitamins.

I also went to the dry cleaners because our dry cleaning has been sitting there ready to pick up for more than a week, and also we had more to drop off.

On Wednesday, I hope to take the kids to get their flu shots, and get mine, too. I also need to call and get an appointment to take my car in for its regular service, call for an eye doctor appointment, and make an appointment to get the mammogram I'm pretty sure I'm almost a year late getting. Oops.

But! I haven't let my asthma meds run out in ages, so that's something. And the itchy rash on my arms that I usually treat with a cream I've lost and have been trying to get the prescription renewed for seems to be going away on its own, so I guess I can stop trying to get my doctor and the pharmacy to sort out their communication problem on that one. Except now I have a new itchy spot on my arm, which I think came from the tape they put on after I gave blood last week. Since when has my skin been so sensitive?

On the work side, I just wrapped up a big project with my major client, which is nice because I brought it in pretty much exactly on time but is a bit sad because my income will take a hit while I work to get a new project ramped up. But at least there is a new project to ramp up, so I can't complain.

I'm in a release heavy period for Annorlunda Books, so I'm contacting lots of bloggers and other folks for reviews, which is good but time consuming. I have this cool new idea I want to work on... but I won't let myself work on it until I finish off some of the things I already have underway. I just cleared one card out of my in progress column tonight: I set up the email for the new Tungsten Hippo free ebook. Twice a year, I give a free short ebook to the subscribers to my Tungsten Hippo mailing list, and it was time for a new one. So soon, I'll have space to work on that shiny new idea....

Back on the home side... the first meeting of Petunia's Jr. Lego League team (which I am coaching!) was on Sunday, and it went well. At some point this week, I need to prepare for this Sunday's meeting, but I'm feeling a little less stressed by this undertaking now that I have one meeting done and the kids were all great.

Also, we don't have to worry about another birthday party until April, and I think we have Halloween outfits mostly under control, thanks to a gift of a doctor's outfit that Petunia got for her birthday and my mom's offer to make Pumpkin's Anne of Green Gables dress. I just need to figure out how best to dye Pumpkin's hair red for a day (and not more than a day....) and take her to find some lace up boots to complete her outfit.

So what I'm saying is that maybe things will settle back down to the usual level of busy instead of the "turn the knob to 11" level we've been at for the past month or so. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

For now, I'm off to read a bit before bed. My book club decided to read A Wrinkle in Time this month, and I am greatly enjoying re-reading it.

How are all of you doing?

Friday, October 06, 2017

Weekend Reading: Refusing to Give Up Edition

This week went by in a whirlwind, partly because of all the news and partly because of things in my own life (e.g., Petunia's actual birthday). I don't like it when there are no posts between two weekend reading posts, but that's just how it is sometimes.

This was a tough week, news-wise. By the end of yesterday, I was feeling overwhelmed with all the awfulness, and I'd actually been making an effort NOT to read about it all. For instance, I didn't read that BuzzFeed article about Breitbart, because I thought that might just push me over the edge into hating everyone.

So, it is a light links week, because I haven't been reading as much as usual, in the interest of not falling into despair.

In amidst everything else, I did some work, too, and that leads to two self-promo links:

And now, for the other links:

I thought Josh Marshall had some smart things to say about our problems with guns. I refuse to give up on trying to change this. I don't think there is any one magic answer, but I think those pieces and the one by David Frum that Marshall links to in the last piece get at something really important: we have decided as a culture to accept  our high level of gun deaths because we as a culture have decided that it is important not just that people can own guns, but they can do so without many limits on them.

I don't want to turn this into a post about gun violence, but my top picks for concrete changes to start turning this around are: (1) take guns away from domestic abusers, and (2) stop treating it as an "accident" when children get their hands on guns and hurt themselves or others. Hold the adults who made those guns accessible to children responsible.

OK, moving on.

This article about the GOP donor class is scathing, in a good way.

Racism doesn't need a devil's advocate.

That's all I have.



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